It’s extremely difficult for me to deviate my playlist from its staples (Beyoncé and Future) but because it’s Jesus’ birthday season, the times call for it. In honor of the holiday season, here is a list of holiday tunes, only with a necessary Negro twist. Some fit the tradition, others detour just a little bit, but I’m sure all keep Christ lit in the VIP section of heaven for his birthday party.
Merry Christmas to believers and heathens alike!
1. TLC, “Sleigh Ride”
My favorite from A LaFace Family Christmas, and probably the first contemporary (at the time) Christmas song I had ever heard.
2. Donny Hathaway, “This Christmas”
It’s literally not Christmas if I don’t hear this song at least once (or 17 times) during the holidays. Many have tried to sing this song, but none are better than Hathaway’s version. Literally, your fave could never.
3. Destiny’s Child, “8 Days of Christmas”
Between croons about getting Chloé shades, dirty denim jeans, a belly ring and hawking their newly released Mattel dolls, this is a delightfully birdy way of singing about Christmas. That’s not shade; that’s fact. It’s also great admiration for Destiny’s Child sticking to their format even for a holiday album.
4. The Emotions, “What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas?”
This song will make you text folks you have no business being in contact with, but it’s so good.
5. Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Apparently, this year Mariah has been displaced from the top of retail stores’ holiday playlist. Should Christmas sales fall as a result of this sin, let it be a lesson for all: do not cross the Queen of Christmas. Not now, not ever.
6. Boyz II Men, “Let It Snow”
I can already hear the stampede forming from this opinion, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Boyz II Men. I’m more of a Jodeci kind of guy. But I will admit that very few things are better than “Let It Snow.” I just made my Boyz II Men sister smile.
7. Luther Vandross, “Every Year, Every Christmas”
In 1995, Luther Vandross released This Is Christmas lead single “Every Year, Every Christmas.” The album would go to sell over a million copies and make many an auntie cry whenever select works (like this song) are played.
8. Stevie Wonder, “Someday at Christmas”
If I didn’t include Stevie Wonder, I’d be jumped by a group of Black folks, pinned to the ground, and forced to listen to this song on repeat until I learned to appreciate it in all its splendor. That’s how Black this song is and how important it is to Black folks.
9. James Brown, “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”
Not sure you can get any Blacker than a funk-singing Black man with a big-ass perm singing about Kris Kringle hitting the ghetto.
10. Snoop Dogg, “Santa Claus Goes to the Ghetto”
Well, there is this hip-hop reimagining of the song from Snoop Dogg.
11. Eartha Kitt, “Santa Baby”
For the people who like Christmas best when the trick gives you treats. By the way, Tamar Braxton and Khia have great covers of this gem.
I dare you to tell me Khia didn’t slay this.
12. The Temptations, “Silent Night”
The original version of this song is cute, but it’s nothing like The Temptations’ harmonious version. Now that I think about it, this is the original example of what happens when you take a song like Adele’s “Hello” and find some Black man to flip and reverse it. (Hello, Joe.)
13. Quad City DJs, “What You Want for Christmas”
This song speaks to my spirit for no other reason than the line, “I’m going to go to the club on Christmas Eve.” This is me. I will also go to the club on Christmas. What? I’m turning up for Jesus. It’s his birthday party.
14. H-Town, “Knocking the Boots for Christmas”
This is from Christmas at Luke’s House, thus this plays to a certain type of way of celebrating the joyous occasion. Shout out to the holiday freaks. Everyone needs some loving.
15. The O’Jays, “Christmas Just Ain’t Christmas Without the One You Love”
Make not that I struggled between this and “I Can Hardly Wait ’Til Christmas.” Forgive me if you feel I’ve made the wrong choice.
16. Jackson 5, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”
I miss you, Michael Joseph Jackson.
17. Mary J. Blige, “No Happy Holidays”
What’s Christmas without your auntie bursting into a brown liquor-infused rant about how trifling men are?
18. Sounds of Blackness, “Soul Holidays”
Their name is Sounds of Blackness. The song is called “Soul Holidays.” Obviously, I couldn’t ignore this song.
19. OutKast, “Player’s Ball”
I am referring specifically to the Christmas version that was on A LaFace Family Christmas Album. It’s still barely about Christmas, but since it was on a Christmas album, it will also remind me of X-Mas—specifically when cousins go outside to smoke.
Now, I’d like to say honorable mention to each of the Braxton sisters and their brother Michael for Braxtons Family Christmas. It may have taken them nearly an eternity to get a family album done, but they did, and it’s quite good.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick.